Category Archives: From There to Now

You Can’t See Me: Bad Habits Part One

Old habits die hard, or not at all.

In a world full of endless distraction now just finger tips away, it is too easy to get lost in it all. A healthy amount of distraction is a good thing, and that’s probably how it started. We all live in our own heads to some extent, but I tend to be a more extreme head-case. I over think everything and have a rather constant dialogue in my head, unless I can distract it elsewhere.

So distractions are healthy, when used in appropriate amounts. For much of my younger years, video games often served that niche. Video games were both fun and a great way to escape reality. While I would pull the occasional evening or even weekend binge, I always could turn them off. It helped having a vibrant social life and academic deadlines, but even still, I knew how to walk away. And I still do, that’s not the problem, this isn’t about to be a tell-all of a video game addict.

No, the problem was everything else. Add TV. Add movies. Add social media. Add YouTube. Add Netflix. Add other mostly pointless apps. Suddenly, it became extremely easy to maintain distraction from one to another. I could walk away from one (and feel good about the self-control) only to fall into another distraction. Smart phones made it easy. Constant, even.

Then remove the deadlines that made scheduling easy. Remove the functional social life. Add an amorphous goal of “find a job.” Add a growing disappointment in myself and my environment. Suddenly, I found myself falling deeper into distractions, coming up for air less often.

Because if I can’t see you, you can’t see me. If I can’t see, feel, or think about the problem, it’s not there.

Take even this blog post. I couldn’t count the number of mini breaks I took to look, read, respond to something else. I should have written this in half the time it took.

So during the year long detour, I found myself spending more time underwater and less time fighting for shore. But even still, I would have moments where the will, the motivation, the desperation would return and I’d refocus, reorient and rationalize.

Because one bad habit begets another.

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A Year Long Detour

I spent the past two weeks concluding my life in Iowa, so I had much less free time than expected. Of course, I’d start a new project right before moving. 

If you could go back and ask an earlier version of myself the places he’d likely reside throughout his life, Iowa wouldn’t have made any list.

I didn’t hate living in Iowa. To the contrary, I found Des Moines to be an enjoyable city overall. But, Iowa is not the kind of place I envisioned myself residing at any point. Maybe that’s a lesson in-of-itself, but that’s not the point right now. So I got off my journey and resigned to spending a few months there while looking for jobs. I was so convinced it would only be a few months. Then the new year came and went and nothing changed. I would have a spurt of applications, then a spurt of nothing and repeat, with the occasional revival of writing sprinkled across this time.

I wish I could convey how mentally and emotionally crushing it is to be stuck in essentially part-time work in customer service with years of education, culminating in a Master’s degree, bouncing around my head. I don’t mean that to say I was too good for that type of work, rather that I found it incredibly unfulfilling.  I want to be apart of something.

Despite what some are convinced, I have never been one to chase the money. Obviously, I hope to earn enough to live a life free of debt and with some basic amenities, but I have never dreamed of riches in any serious fashion. What I yearn for, is the knowledge that my work, whatever that might be, will leave a lasting impact upon others and the world around me. I don’t seek fame, simply to know that I lived a life worth living: to know I helped build something important.

For a year, I accomplished nothing to that end. So despite the positive memories and relationships, I consider that time a failure. Not necessarily a waste of time, but a failure to accomplish the goals I’ve set for myself.

Previously, this is where I would end the blog. It’s poignant, albeit depressing, but despite the categorized failure, I do believe I have learned a few things.

It it much easier to make a simple observation and leave it at that. What’s maybe harder (for myself) is to observe, conclude, then ask why. There’s a number of variations to that question as it concerns the year spent in Iowa, but, as we’ll explore going forward, it comes down to habits. I’m a man of many bad habits and a poor ability to form new, positive ones. Habits I’m still trying to break.

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From There to Now: The Art of Leavetakings

Note: Scheduled posts seem to fail to post as expected sometimes. This was meant to go live 5 hours ago. I’ll fix that going forward.
The first goodbye, at age 18, was hard. I had lived in the same house for over a decade. I had formed and cultivated a number of concrete friendships in that time. Saying goodbye to those people and that place was painful, the first time.

Six years later, I had developed a fondness for wandering. By this time, the leavetaking was, for me, much easier. Repetition breeds comfort, but maybe in part,  because I do truly believe I will be back. In fact, during those emotional goodbyes, that’s usually my parting promise.

When you spend as much time on the road as I have, you begin to develop a different definition of ‘home.’ Home is no longer a physical concept, but rather an emotional and mental state of being. I have learned to distinguish residence from home: a residence might become a home, but home is not necessarily a residence. This isn’t a particularly revolutionary thought, but I make this distinction to then explain the following:

Long drives, road trips, and general geographic ramblings have become a home to me. I find peace when chasing the horizon. The world never feels more in place than behind the wheel of a car.

And that’s where this project last ended—midway into a cross-country road trip that spanned over multiple months with half a dozen states as destinations. A glorious, but maybe ill-advised collections of weeks before the reality of my circumstances crashed down around me. And crash they did, but that’s for  later.

For two months after, I found myself trying to juggle vacation and productivity, living on a friend’s couch in Michigan. While I treasured those two months with dear friends from whom I had been long estranged from, I know now that was a mistake, maybe not in its entirety but at least in part. What it was was a feeble last-ditched attempt to avoid the twenty-somethings cliché: graduating, finding no ready employment, and returning home to live with the parents.

Three months after graduating with a Master’s degree, I was, for the first time since I left at 18, living full-time under my parent’s roof. The past year since then has been wrought with disappointment as I have floundered about in an attempt to find my place in this world. I have spent the past year in self-defeating cycle fueled by failure to achieve expectations both set by myself and others.

I am 25 years old, with a Master’s degree, $80,000 in debt and living at my parent’s while working part-time in retail. Simply put, I am embarrassed.

But change is coming. In two weeks I will be moving, this time to Illinois. I am beginning a new chapter, this time with a wealth of mistakes under my belt to build upon. I am determined, more than ever, to reach a different conclusion. I simply refuse to allow the year of 2016 to go to waste.

I’ve titled this series From There to Now, which should be rather self-evident to the content I will be exploring. The intention remains to use this multi-week series as a springboard into other discussions as I attempt to recover aspirations lost over the years.

Let me know what you think because, as I’ve said before, life is a journey best taken together.

-Doug

 

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